Friday, September 17, 2010

Mealtime Can Be a Pleasure

Are mealtimes at your house full of stress and arguing? Do your kids treat you like a short order cook? Is the whole family stressed out by the time the meal hits the table?

I do not have a magic formula to help your kids appreciate your cooking and I can not snap my fingers and suddenly everyone uses proper table manners but I can give you some ideas to try out in hopes of cutting some of the stress with mealtime.

Take some old road maps and use them to make placemats. The standard placemat size is about 12” x 18”. Cut out the maps in this size and use it as a geography lesson for your kids while you are preparing dinners. If you want these to last a while, laminate them professionally or cover both sides with clear contact paper for a less expensive version of lamination.

Let the kids set the table for you. If they are not sure where everything goes yet, set a place setting on a piece of construction paper in the sun for a day. The paper will fade leaving an imprint of the proper way to set a table. Let the kids use this as a diagram.

Have certain toys that are available only during meal prep time. If they can only play with lacing toys while you are cooking, they will appreciate the toy more and keep occupied while you are busy.

While preparing dinner, allow the kids to wash the fruits and vegetables. If you are measuring things, let the kids count the 4 tablespoons or 2 eggs that you are adding to the recipe.

Meal time is the perfect time to begin teaching manners. Please and thank you should always be encouraged when sitting at the table. This is also a great time to catch up on one another’s day. Explain to your child how considerate it is to listen to one another and not interrupt. They will eventually catch on but do not expect a proper and polite child overnight.

Do not force a child to eat a food they do not like, even if they liked it last week. If you try to force a child to eat a food it will only cause control and power issues. It is not unusual for a child to only eat one or two types of food during a meal. Hopefully they will eventually try the new items; just let them do it on their own terms. Your chances are better if you prepare the new food with a food that you know they already love.

Like I said, I can not cure all of the ails that come with mealtime but I hope these hints will make meal time memorable for good reasons instead of stressful ones. Happy eating.

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